10 fun community-building activities

Educational professionals know that feeling safe and secure within the school environment can help students to focus their energies on learning. A recent study from 2018 has backed this up with research. It found that if teachers can create a feeling of belonging in their classroom by simply greeting every student by name at the start of class, they can see great improvements in terms of engaged academic time and reduced disruptive behavior.

Of course, this is one example of an easy change that teachers can introduce into their everyday practice to foster a strong community vibe. With this in mind, here are some more fun community building activities that are quick and simple to implement but can have a significant positive impact on student engagement and learning.

Happy Student Classroom Laughing

3 community building ideas for elementary school students

It’s never too early to make your classroom feel like a connected, welcoming community. The following activities can prove very valuable in helping even the youngest children to develop a feeling of belonging.

1. Shout-outs

This is a quick and easy way to allow students to celebrate each other’s achievements when they succeed in overcoming a challenge or completing a task to the best of their ability. You can incorporate shout-outs at any time during your lesson by simply sounding an alert or ringing a bell. By asking students to praise their fellow classmates, you promote interactions between students and celebrate their positivity.

2. Friendly Fridays

Students can play a key role in helping to raise each other’s self-esteem. The idea behind Friendly Fridays is that students write an anonymous, positive note to one of their classmates, practice talking positively about themselves, or use stories as a way of instilling positivity in a classmate.

3. Shared acts of kindness

Encouraging students to notice and share each other’s kind acts is a great way to promote positivity and inspire compassion. If, for example, one student notices a peer helping a struggling classmate with a challenging task or taking the initiative to tidy up, they can then post a note of thanks on a shared Wall of Kindness for everyone to see.

Group of students in class with their hands raised

3 community-building activities for middle school students

As children get older and progress into middle school, it’s time to build on the positive classroom environment fostered during the elementary stage and to continue encouraging students to support each other. Here are some of the best activities for community building to suit this age group.

1. Paper tweets

Building on the connection that young people have with social media platforms, this activity helps to build a sense of community in your classroom by mimicking Twitter profiles. Each student should have a minimum of three “followers.” One must be a close friend, another must be an acquaintance, and the third must be a classmate that they rarely interact with. Although the initial setup for this activity may be time-consuming, it’s well worth implementing this idea since it allows students to respond to prompts about the new events in their life or their mood at the present time. This also gives followers a chance to react.

2. Class norms

Rather than relying on the teacher’s list of classroom rules, have students develop their own set of class norms — adjectives that describe a positive learning community. When students set their own norms and expectations, they create a stronger feeling of belonging for everyone. It also gives students a chance to take responsibility for their own behavior within their learning environment.

3. Group salutes

This teacher-prompted interaction is a speedy, preparation-free way to get your students to appreciate each other. At the end of an activity, have your students congratulate each other for their efforts using an agreed-upon expression of gratitude, such as a handshake or high-five, or some other social interaction, such as verbally thanking the other members of their group.

High school students having a group discussion

4 community building ideas for high school students

The high school environment can be one of the most challenging when it comes to fostering a sense of community. It is at this stage in life that students can begin to feel most disconnected from their classmates. And as young people begin to develop their own distinct personalities, they run the risk of feeling increasingly isolated from their peers. This is why it is especially vital for high school educators to include community-building activities in their everyday practice. Here are some of the top suggestions for activities that are best suited to young people on the verge of adulthood.

1. Morning meetings

Although morning meetings are a regular feature in the elementary classroom, they tend to fall by the wayside as students grow older. By reintroducing this everyday activity once more in a high school setting, teachers can facilitate bonding between classmates. Holding a daily morning meeting helps students from every grade to transition into class through a teacher or student-led bonding exercise, which can include social, emotional, or physical activities, such as discussions of challenges that students may be facing or sensitive topics such as bullying.

2. Appreciation or apology

At the close of each day or lesson, the Appreciation or Apology activity encourages students to come together within a circle to share their appreciation of a classmate or an apology for something that they feel was inappropriate. Alternatively, they can share their own “aha!” moment from the lesson where they gained a greater understanding of the subject matter. When necessary, the teacher can model this activity by sharing their own appreciation, apology, or aha moment before asking a volunteer from within the group to discuss their own experience. This type of appreciation and recognition within the school community can really help to foster strong bonds within the class.

3. A rose and a thorn

At the beginning of every class, the students and teacher should take their turn at sharing a rose and a thorn. The rose represents something positive that they’d like to share, while the thorn may be something negative that they want to express. Although this may sound time-consuming, it can take as little as five minutes to carry out this activity since there’s no need to go into depth about the emotions and feelings expressed. Students may express something as low-stakes as feeling tired or bored, or they may share something a lot more personal, such as concerns about a sick relative or a personal problem. When classmates understand more about each other’s emotional and personal lives, they can begin to support each other through the challenging times that they face.

4. Snowball toss

Each student anonymously writes something that’s causing them stress or worry on a piece of paper. They then crumple it up, stand in a circle, and throw the paper balls at each other as if they were in a snowball fight. Then students choose one of the snowballs and read what’s written aloud. The concept behind this is that students can have fun, scream, laugh, move around, and make noise while also having the chance to express something that stresses them out in a low-stakes environment.

group of students smiling and doing the peace sign at the camera

Building a community will have a positive impact on your school

These ten fun community-building activities give students the opportunity to foster better interactions with their classmates while also expressing themselves, their emotions, and their problems. By sharing positive messages, students can develop stronger working relationships within their learning community. And by sharing their own problems and worries, students can begin to develop a better understanding of their classmates on a more personal level. As a result, the school community as a whole can build on its strengths, minimize issues with misbehavior and a lack of learning engagement, and help to curb the problem of bullying.

Photo: Google Edu

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